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Bernie Kerik led American Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform Supports End of Civic Forfeiture Laws

WASHINGTON, D.C. October 8, 2015 – Bernie Kerik, former New York City Police Commissioner and co-founder of the American Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform, commends House members and supports the passing of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform legislation introduced today by House Judiciary Committee Members, Reps. Goodlatte (R-VA- 6), Conyers (D-MI-6), Sensenbrenner (R-WI-5), and Jackson-Lee (D-TX-18).

“This bill helps to repair the integrity of the justice system. As a veteran cop who has worked in law enforcement my entire career, I know that most cops try to do everything right. But, as Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski has said, bad cops and bad prosecutors—those who don’t follow the rules and the law—make the job so much harder for the good ones. Their misconduct diminishes the credibility of all of the good ones—just as rioters diminish opportunities for peaceful protesters,” said Commissioner Bernie Kerik.

Today, our local and federal law enforcement seems little different than Russia or China. Once you become a target of the government—and sometimes even before—overzealous members of law enforcement use Civil Asset Forfeiture to seize your property, whether you’re convicted and it is virtually impossible or too expensive to get your property back. Civil Asset Forfeiture proceedings charge the property itself with involvement in a crime. This means that police can seize your car, home, money, or valuables without ever having to charge you with a crime. For a person to regain their property they need to first file a claim against the government, and then prove that they are innocent, while then having to pay for their own legal counsel. During this process, that individual is also deprived any access to his or her own money and/or property. That is not justice, and that’s not how it is supposed to be.

State and local enforcement agencies get around their own state laws designed to protect property owners through a program called “equitable sharing.” Local law enforcement can then keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds by transferring these proceeds to the federal government.

The abuse of the extraordinary power of local and federal officials to wrongfully and intentionally deprive citizens of their liberty, freedom, and their very lives for political and personal gain is happening daily. Since 2001, this policy has encouraged ‘policing for profit’ which has pulled over nearly 62,000 motorists and have subjected them to searches without warrants and has netted over $2 billion dollars worth of property seized.

“For police, it’s about protecting and serving—keeping our communities safe and enforcing the law according to the Constitution. True reform, smart reform focuses on every American’s Constitutional rights, making our justice system safe, efficient and effective. Years ago I personally worked for and with the feds, and we would not seize a persons personal property until they were convicted of a crime and it was determined that their property was either used in the commission of a crime or purchased as a result of the commission of a crime. This practice of Civil Asset Forfeiture used by law enforcement today is an absolute abuse of power and needs to come to an end,” concluded Kerik.

The American Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform 501 c4 is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations established to advocate for common sense, science and statistic based initiatives that will transform our outdated judicial sentencing guidelines by addressing over- criminalization and other aspects of criminal justice badly in need of reform. ACCJR works to create sensible change to state and federal laws and regulations that will improve the social and economic lives of American families.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with ACCJR Spokesman Bernie Kerik, contact Chad Proudlock at 202-341-9171 or email proudlock@accjr.org.

 

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